May 23, 2019 | 66° F

EDITORIAL: National emergency is real danger to US

Troubling precedent would be set with extension of presidential power


In the fomentation of crisis, authoritarianism blooms. An undemocratic concentration of power breathes freely behind rhetoric of security and national emergency. As James Madison noted, “The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”

While the course of the nation appears as though it will avert another devastating government shutdown as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) claims that President Donald J. Trump has agreed to sign seven spending bills ensuring that nine federal departments will remain funded, McConnell also made it known that the president intends to declare his national emergency. Whether such plans are mere cannon fodder for media outlets or there is real merit to the claim, the dangerous precedent hangs densely in the air. 

Because the spending package to be signed includes $1.375 billion in funding for physical barriers and not the requested $5.7 billion, the compromise would have been touted as a loss for the president. Still hurt by the decline in approval from the last government shutdown, both signing the spending bill and declaring a faux national emergency allows for Trump to avoid criticism from conservative pundits. 

In declaring a national emergency, Trump has the power to reallocate funds that would otherwise be dedicated to disaster relief or military construction projects. With citizens in Puerto Rico and California still digging themselves out of rubble and ash after devastating wildfires and hurricanes, the potential diversion of funds will only undermine recovery.

While the tragedies of families affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants have been politicized and paraded, several studies have found “no link between immigration and crime, and some have found lower crime rates among immigrants.” The Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank, analyzed the Texas data for 2015 and found that “the rate of crime among undocumented immigrants was generally lower than among native-born Americans.” 

With the attempt to spark panic over violence also came efforts by the Trump administration to fabricate a drug crisis built on illegal Southern border crossings. Except, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, most heroin is brought into the U.S. in vehicles entering legally through border crossings, not through the locations where walls are proposed or already exist. 

For the seventh consecutive year, there were less illegal border crossings than visa overstays. The Center for Migration Studies found that from 2016 to 2017, “people who overstayed their visas accounted for 62 percent of the newly undocumented, while 38 percent had crossed a border illegally.” Its study concluded that "since more than one half of all U.S. undocumented residents arrive by air, visa-issuing posts have become the real frontline deterrent to undocumented migration.”

Manufacturing a national emergency to extend presidential powers must be met with the highest degree of cynicism and criticism to preserve the fragile democratic values that ought to be at the core of this nation. The Brennan Center for Justice has identified 123 statutory powers the can potentially become available in the case that a president declares a national emergency. The flames of tyranny spread among fear and apathy. 

Even with bipartisan concerns about the precedent such a move could set, the nation waits to see how the history made today will unravel tomorrow. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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